The Moët British Independent Film Awards announced this year’s nominees last Monday and John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary received a total of four nominations. With McDonagh himself up for two awards in the Best Director and Best Screenplay categories, we thought we’d fill you in on a few facts that you might not already know about the writer and director.
1. McDonagh’s first feature film, The Guard, is the most financially successful independent Irish film ever
This is a title previously held by In Bruges, which McDonagh’s brother Martin McDonagh (an accomplished playwright, screenwriter and director) wrote and directed. Starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle, The Guard is a comedy crime film that sees an unconventional Irish policeman and an uptight American F.B.I Agent team up in an attempt to bust a global drug smuggling ring.
2. Calvary is the second of three of McDonagh’s films to star Brendan Gleeson
After playing leading roles in 2011’s The Guard and 2014’s Calvary, Gleeson is also lined up to star in McDonagh’s upcoming project The Lame Shall Enter First which follows the story of an embittered, paraplegic ex-policeman. In interviews, both McDonagh and Gleeson have referred to these three films as the ‘Glorified Suicide Trilogy,’ seeing them all explore the theme of martyrdom.
3. Calvary was filmed in McDonagh’s mother’s hometown
Describing it as a “kind of personal auteurish overview of the trilogy,” McDonagh set Calvary in the Irish town of Sligo where his mother is from. The Guard was set in Galway, where his father is from, and The Lame Shall Enter First will be set in South London, where McDonagh himself is from.
4. Wrote the 2003 film Ned Kelly starring Heath Ledger
McDonagh was disappointed with the final outcome of the screenplay he adapted from Robert Drewe’s 1991 novel Our Sunshine. Calling the director “humourless” in one interview, McDonagh resolved to direct the next film that he wrote himself. He described the following years of writing scripts that didn’t get made as “very debilitating” before he finally found success with The Guard (a struggle that’s pretty reassuring for other aspiring filmmakers!).
5. The next McDonagh film you’re most likely to catch at the cinema is War On Everyone
Despite having plans to complete the ‘Glorified Suicide Trilogy,’ McDonagh’s current project sees him make a departure from the Irish landscape. Set in the Deep South, War On Everyone is a higher budget movie about two corrupt police officers with Guy Pearce rumoured to be playing one of the roles.